Take a basic photo class at your local community college and one of the first things they will teach you is to simply “hold the camera steady.”
The still camera, film or digital, does not capture just a “moment” in time but actually a period of time, however small. Depending on your situation it could be 1/30th of a second, 1/125th of a second or 1/250th of second; it is duration of time. And during that span of time, things move. While your subject may move beyond your capacity for control, you can control the motion of your camera.
Motion of the subject or the camera during the short time period the shutter is open will blur the image. While this may be desirable in some rare creative situations, in the vast majority of instances it damages or destroys a shot. The more steady the camera, the sharper and better quality the image.
You control how much or how little your camera moves. There are some simple techniques and methods you can use to control the movement of your camera to get the best image possible — just remember the “3 Bs” — bracing, buoyancy, and breathing.
A camera out at the end of your arms is one of the worst places it can be. Your arms wobble more than you can imagine. And digital cameras can make it worse with the tendency to hold the camera at arm’s length to view the screen. Pull your arms in and brace your elbows against your body to hold the camera steady.
You can also brace yourself against the reef or bottom. Do this only if you can do so without damaging the reef or stirring up silt into the water and thus damaging the photo. You can also wedge yourself in gaps in the reef with your fins or other body parts, again, only if it does not damage the reef. A slight negative buoyancy can help with these techniques.
Your breathing underwater affects us in so many ways. It affects our buoyancy — lighter with each inhalation, heavier with each exhalation. Bubbles from exhalation can cloud waters but, worse, is that those same bubbles shake your whole body and your camera as they leave your regulator in a roaring rumble.
Hold your breath? NO! But get your breathing into a relaxed rhythm. Settle down. If possible, snap your shot on a soft, relaxed and long inhalation.
Divers have gotten themselves into trouble with improper breathing during underwater photography. Photographers will frequently hold their breath when snapping a shutter underwater. To make matters worse, they will do this at the same time looking upward for the best shot and rising — a definite formula for lung damage. Both for safety sake and the sake of a good photo, be aware of your breathing while taking photographs underwater.
Hold that camera steady for the sharpest, best quality images. Do this by remembering the 3Bs — bracing, buoyancy and breathing.